Monday, February 28, 2011

Art Class: Wink Collage

I will be returning to the Whiting Lane School to do an author visit in April, and since I was there last year, I needed to come up with a new art project that co-ordinated with the new book.

Since in Wink, The Ninja Who Wanted to Nap, Wink is desperate to catch some Zzzzz's, I thought it might be fun to see what ninjas dream of. So we made Napping Ninja Collages, and I used my Sunday Art Crew as guinea pigs.

(Here's Magoo and the boys as they cut and paste.)

It always takes me a few times to practice teaching lessons like these. It's hard to know what will trip up the kiddos. Size is usually the biggest issue. Kids want to work small. To make Wink's head a nice size, I tried to instruct them to use their fist as a guide. This wasn't 100% effective. They were too concerned with tracing their fists. Maybe I'll try to get the kids to imagine the size of a tennis ball instead?

Once they get all the pieces cut out and glued, they can draw Wink's dream in pencil.

Here's Curly's project. His ninja is dreaming of training. Someone is going up a staircase. I'm not sure what that's about.

Mo's ninja is also dreaming of training (Curly was having a hard time coming up with his own ideas and tended to do his own version of Mo's idea.) But Mo's ninja is training in a bamboo forest and I love that the dream extends down into the little bubbles that connect to Wink's head.

Magoo's ninja dreams of being shot in the gut with an arrow. Disturbing? Perhaps. But the drawing is pretty well executed. I see the bow, the arrow, and Magoo DIDN'T draw the huge shoulder pads that he normally makes.

So I guess this was more of Wink's nightmare, but hey - I'm sure ninjas have those too.

Friday, February 25, 2011

And the Winner is ....

Congratulations Imene! And thanks to everyone who played and sent in fantastic ninja ideas.

Imene - I will try to cyber-chase you down to get your info. Otherwise send me an email at

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Princess and The Pea

My niece's birthday is coming up - so I thought I rip a page from my friend Angela's book and SouleMama's and make a Prince and the Pea doll set.

Actually, it seems quite a lot of crafty people have been doing this. A blog search can yield a bounty of results. And although my buddy made a paper doll princess to go with the mattresses, a did see someone make a cloth doll and that reminded me of an awesome doll pattern I had seen on the Purl Bee site.

There are times when it's awesome to be me. And this was one of them because, I had the felt, I had the embroidery thread, I had the stuffing, and I had all the fabric swatches I needed to make the little mattresses. I even had a small green pom-pom which I sewed on the bottom mattress to be the pea!

All I had to do was buy the book - and I opted for The Princess and the Pea by Lauren Child because she's just so much fun. And I had to put it all together - which, wasn't the smallest of tasks - but it was fun too.

Now, my niece is only turning two and I have NO IDEA what two-year-old girls are into. So I hope she likes it.

In other news: Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a free copy of WINK THE NINJA WHO WANTED TO NAP and a free pack of Wink Cards. The drawing is tomorrow! Leave a comment on Tuesday's post.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WIN IT before you can BUY IT

Do you like free stuff? Me too! And the second best thing to winning a contest is hosting a contest!

In celebration of my second book with Viking, Wink, the Ninja Who Wanted to Nap, I am giving away a book (which I will sign for the winner - and I will write ANYTHING you want!) and a pack of 4 Wink cards. Greeting cards - not trading cards. Although trading cards would be pretty cool - don't you think? Maybe I should make some of those. Oooh - maybe I should make a board game!

OK - reeling it back in now. All you have to do is leave a comment on THIS POST about what you would do if you were a ninja.

Would you use your powers for good? Would you sneak around and spy on movie stars? Would you scramble up tree limbs and rescue kittens? Would you go down into the sewer and become a teenage turtle? Do tell! But don't sweat over it - I'm drawing the winner at random. Cleverness on your part won't help you win - it will just make me smile. And isn't that a prize in and of itself? No? Ok, then.

One more thing - make sure there's a way for me to contact you - either you have a google account that will link to your email or you have a blog I can comment on or leave your email. And if you win - I'll let you know about it.

If you don't have a google account, send me an email ( and I will enter you.

I'll draw a name on FRIDAY - Feb 25th (around 9 am or so) so I can get it out into the post office and you can have the prize in your hot little hands lickity-split! Because what's the point of winning an advanced copy unless you can have it before it goes into the stores. Plus - I need to go to the post office on Friday anyway.

OK, folks, the contest is open. And thanks in advance for all the support! I'm super psyched about the new book!

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Big Box of Wink 2

I love getting mystery packages in the mail! Since I'm not a TV police detective - my mystery packages are always something good. Have you noticed how TV detectives always get terrible mystery packages with severed limbs and such in them? But I digress ...

My mystery package had my advanced copies of Wink, The Ninja Who Wanted to Nap in it! YEAH!

A lot of people think authors get an endless supply of their books. That is not true. There is a set number of books you get that is in your contract. For me, it is 20. That's all I get. Ever. Any time I want a copy of my book beyond the 20 copies, I have to buy it in a store - just like anyone else. But right now - I have 20. Well, 19. One's for Magoo. And 1 is just for me, for my permanent collection. I'll probably send 1 copy to my niece and nephew. They're not really into ninjas but hey - they're my niece and nephew. And I'll HAVE to do a giveaway on the site!!!

Here's Magoo reading the book.

And here's a review from Publishers' Weekly:

Having earned notoriety in his first adventure, Wink now stars in the Lucky Dragon Circus and is basking in his fame. But what he could really use is some shut-eye. Unfortunately, he's pursued high and low by fans, who won't let him rest. It's up to droll Master Zutsu, who speaks in allegories, to deliver a solution--even if Wink is a little slow on the uptake ("Why can't Master Zutsu say anything normal?" he complains). Phillipps offers wit aplenty in cut-paper compositions that match Wink's boundless energy and bravado. Even when sleepy, her hero demands to be noticed. Ages 4–up. (Mar.)

If you're local, here are some upcoming events:

For all my Whiting Lane fans - I'll be coming back to the Whiting Lane School on Thursday April 14 - Friday April 15th.

I'll be at BUMBLE BUG a fantastic art studio in West Hartford, CT, on Saturday April 16th. 10:30. This is a great venue for little fans who may have a harder time sitting still for long and love art.

On Saturday, April 30, I'll be doing a reading/signing of Wink 2 at the Border's out by Westfarms Mall. I don't have the time on that one yet. I'll keep you posted. Finger's crossed that it's still in business by then!

And check back here next week for the Wink The Ninja Who Wanted to Nap giveaway!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Make Your Own: LIGHTBOX!

As I prepared to open my ETSY store, I knew I'd need good product photographs. The thought of buying a lightbox was fun because - let's face it - buying stuff is fun. But then I found this article, and decided that I might as well try to whip one up from the stuff I had at home.

So I did.

Basically, I did everything the article suggested except I didn't have any white fabric so I ironed some tissue paper and used that instead.

The key really is a good strong, white-light bulb. The first one I bought at the hardware store, wasn't great. I got a second SUPER POWERED one at Michael's which made all the difference. Really, if I could get an even stronger one, I would. But the current bulb and a little tweaking in Photoshop, seems to get the job done.

Here's the Wink and Grandmother dolls I recently made for myself, photographed in the lightbox.

And it probably only took me an hour. (Not counting lightbulb shopping.)

Since the cheapest light box was about $50 - I'd say I did well to save it.

In other news: It's supposed to warm up today and tomorrow. In the 50's baby. Yahoo!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Art Class: Sumi-E Birds

Since we bought boys bamboo brushes expressly for sumi-e, I wanted to get at least two lessons out of it. I had a bird lesson ready for last week - but learning the brush strokes for bamboo sucked up all the time.

So this week, we attacked birds. This is the basic step-by-step I taught them.

Step 1, in and of itself is a challenge. In order to get the right shape, you have to start at the top, press the brush down, then pull, curve, and lift at the same time. It also helps if you can twist the brush to get a nice point at the end. We simply practiced that stroke for an entire page.

They were troopers. They were. The stuff I'm throwing at them isn't easy. Practice isn't easy. And for our part (Heather's and mine) managing three boys with different personalities isn't easy.

Curly took to these lessons the most, I think. When he concentrated on it - he did a really good job.

Curly's birds:

Magoo is EASILY frustrated. That's just how he is when learning something new that he doesn't excel at immediately. He needs a lot of positive feedback and reminders not to be too hard on himself. Still, he did pretty darn good.

Mo had the most difficult time with this. I think he gave up on it early in the lesson and simply wanted to do his own thing. These are "tightrope" moments. I really have to feel out a situation here because, ideally, I want to keep them on task until they have a breakthrough, but sometimes it's not worth it. Sometimes you just gotta let go of the lesson and save the day, yanno? Heather kept reminding him to be a good listener, but sumi-e birds weren't meant to be. He just did his own thing and we just let him do it. And that's OK too.

I would love to continue with this. But I think 2 weeks is enough for this group. Next week we'll move on to something a little less structured.

I don't know what yet. :)

Friday, February 11, 2011


Yeah! I've completed four weeks of bird studies! And - whereas I plan to keep painting birds - I think my daily bird practice is over for awhile. I need to move on to other things.

I lead with my favorite (above) Reed Bunting. I'm pleased with the shape of the bird and the coloring. I like the branch and the blossoms. And I like the vertical orientation. I plan to put it in the shop, so I already stamped it.

Below: Red -Headed Tit

Why can't that bird have a better name? I don't want to write a description like, here's a lively pair of tits. Or, these tits defy gravity! That's just wrong. Yet that's the name of the bird. What can I do? :)

Let's just move on.

White Eyes. I like these but I'm not 100% satisfied. You see, there are lovely white dots around the eyes - but because I didn't make the brown dark enough - there's not a strong contrast. It's really a very pretty bird. I might try to paint just one of them a little bigger to capture the details.

Finally: White-Faced Wagtail

Apart from the fact that I got a little crazy with the tail (It's not the wide or fanning) I like it. I've definitely gotten to a paint where I can paint the eyes much better. As for the rest of it - there are always mistakes to be made. But overall I think I've improved my average of good to bad.

I have some of the birds up on my etsy shop. Since it costs me money to list things, I'm not just going to put anything and everything up. I have to see how things sell first. BUT, if you see something here you like, feel free to inquire. I price original artwork separately, but the prints are all $18.00.

You might be saying, "Hey Julie, when I come to your show at ArtSpace, prints are $15. What gives?"

"Well," I'll say, "I bought some super swank paper to print on so these prints are even more vibrant and last longer. Plus - etsy charges a fee and Paypal charges a fee. So I had to take the cost up a tad. But, let me say this, if you do buy something from my shop but you're local and can pick your goods up - I'll reimburse the shipping fee."

Just so you know.

Thanks for all the bird love! There will be more - but maybe not as frequently.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I'm on ETSY!

I've been threatening to do it for about two years now. And it's taken me two years to really wrap my head around it. But it's here. The NinjaWoman Shop is up on ETSY. (Click the link or the widget on the sidebar to visit.)

I have a few pieces of jewelry up. Some packs of cards.

And even some of the new bird watercolors.

I tried to put a small smattering of items up to see what people like.

In the next few days I'll include some prints up as well.

If you have requests - now's the time to lay them on me. :) And to my mom, whose friends are always asking her when she'll have more cards, now you can direct them to the store. Problem solved.

Thanks so much for all the support. I hope you enjoy the store.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Art Class: Sumi-E

This week I thought the boys might want a break from drawing, so I taught them some sumi-e technique.

I started by teaching them a brush stroke that would produce a nice leaf. The key is to have your elbow off the table, your brush vertical, and then pull and lift. It's a simple stroke but it takes a while to get it. The boys all filled a page practicing and I was sure to give a lot of positive feedback on great leaf shapes.

Then I taught them how to make the bamboo stalk. Ideally, you'd want a flatter brush for this, so my lesson focused on how to make the segments and then add dots of darker tone to create depth and interest.

Then they did final compositions and stamped them with seals when they were done - which, for kids, is always the best part!

In order: Curly, Magoo, and Mo

I think they did a fantastic job!

In other news:

Look what a little monkey left for me when I got out of the shower last night.

It reads: You stingk.

I don't anymore! I took a shower!

Friday, February 4, 2011


Thank you all for so much bird love on the last (bird) post. Your enthusiasm for all things bird has motivated me and I dare say, I'm getting better. I'm pretty pleased with this week's bird art. Let's see what you think.

Sparrow on a Plum Blossom

One of the things I discovered while searching my studio for something-or-other, was a book I already had on painting birds. But this one has more foliage in it. It's more of a Two-For-One kind of book. This sparrow is from that book. Well, this one is from me, but I learned it in the book.

This new book Chinese Brush by Lucy Wang, also has a different approach to the eyes - which I like better. Or maybe I'm just improving. Or, maybe I've just gotten used to it. Anyway - the eyes are bothering me less.

Prothonotary Warbler on Wisteria

I painted this fun yellow bird during my Monday night painting time with Angela. I was also painting a tire swing landscape which was possibly the most boring and uninspiring painting I have ever made - ug, it was horrible - but the Warbler saved my night and my attitude. I'm very pleased with this one.

Greenback Tit

Since this little guy's in the air, he has no branch - just his own awesome green feathers and some paint spatters to give energy and motion to his flight.

And finally, Russet Sparrows

I'm particularly fond of the one on the branch. The lines, the bleeds, everything works for me on that one. It makes me feel like I'm gaining some control over my own style when approaching these lessons.

That said - I did try to paint an owl based on Heather's love of owls and her request that I do so. There was only one owl in my lesson book and it was a little fluffy for my taste. So I went on the internet and found a couple photos of cool owls and I thought I'd try them on my own, but in the Chinese brush painting style. Oh. My. Did that owl blow?! It's soooo bad I won't even show it here.

My next step (when I'm feeling good and confident) will be to take the steps I've learned here and apply them to my own photos and observations of birds - but clearly I need to learn some owl technique before I can branch out on my own there.

Of course, I could always paint the owl in my own style - Julie Style - if you will. But the whole point for me is to learn something new and stretch myself, so no owls just yet Ms. Heather. But I'll keep it on the radar and see what I can do.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Art Class: Comics

This week, in our Sunday morning art class, I taught the boys a little something about comics. What kid doesn't love comics, right? We read a ton of graphic novels in our house and I know all the boys are into Calvin and Hobbs - so I thought a little visual storytelling might be fun for them and a good chance to practice some of their drawing skills.

First, I asked the boys to develop a character and draw it a few times. I reminded them to keep it simple but distinct - for example - a T-shirt with a dragon on it is complicated to draw over and over again - but a T-shirt with a smiley face is easy and distinct. That sort of thing.

When they had their "dudes" all ready to go, I gave them a 4-panel assignment.
Panel 1: They needed to have their character, a door, and a key
Panel 2: The character picks up the key.
Panel 3: The character unlocks the door.
Panel 4: The character opens the door. What's inside?

They could draw anything they wanted as long as each panel had those aspects in it.

And here's what they drew:

Mo's character was Max. Max has a lot of crazy hair (kinda like Mo.) I like how Mo drew a question mark in the first panel and I thought it was interesting that the door was a sort of barred prison door.

It's too small to read but I believe (in Panel 4) Max is saying something like, "Wow! I'm in Mario World!" and he's dressed as Mario.

Curly created a little dude named Matthew. He made a door much like his brother's, but I LOVE how the key is dangling from a rope in this one.

In Panel 3, Matthew is imagining an explosion. I'm not sure if needed an explosive since the key seemed to work just fine - but hey, maybe that was Plan B. Then, the reveal is that there was a game cube or Wii or some sort of video game console in the back room - which, for Curly, is better than a sack full of diamonds!

It's interesting to note how the space is being used. Curly started off pretty good - but then all of the details of his drawing shrunk. Both Heather and I kept trying to drop friendly reminders to "use the space" but I think the boys are concentrating on other aspects of the art, and size is the thing that get's left behind.

Magoo's character was a robber and when he opened the door a large pile of gold coins came tumbling out covering the robber up to his head.

Magoo did a pretty good job with the space and he did an even better job of over-coming his "standard" body type: large shoulder pads and wing arms.

I struggle sometimes with how much to guide him in his drawing style. On one hand, I want him to be able to express himself visually how he chooses and I LOVE some of his older art featuring a penguin with three eyes or some other "quirky aspects" that might not be "correct." But I also know that developing an eye for details and being able to draw them is part of growing and learning. The trick (for me) is to guide him gently to his next natural step of artistic development and try not to have him feel forced to do things "my way."

Each week, that part gets a little easier for both of us.